George Kennan's 15 May 1953 speech at the University of Notre Dame was delivered at a time, when the right-wing anti-communist hysteria, inflamed by Senator Joseph McCarthy, was at its peak. Yet, it courageously exposed the demagogic McCarthyites for the ignorant, self-righteous, fear-mongering extremists they were. Thus, one can hardly avoid the conclusion that John Lukacs appended the speech to his new book about George Kennan, because it has much to teach us about courage during the current campaign of fear orchestrated by today's American equally self-righteous right-wing extremists.
Kennan excoriated McCarthyism's "alarmed and exercized anti-communism," as "an anti-communism of a quite special variety, bearing an air of excited discovery and proprietorship, as though no one had ever known before that there was a communist danger, as though no one had ever thought about it and taken its measure, as though it had all begun about the year 1945 and these people were the first to learn of it."
President Bush behaved the same way, as if "alarmed and exercised" anti-terrorism rhetoric would enable him to hide his failures to prevent 9/11, notwithstanding numerous warnings about impending terrorist attacks. Attempting to gain proprietorship, Bush's numerous asinine assertions about the terrorists demonstrated that he didn't have a clue.
First, he ignorantly claimed: "They hate our freedoms -- our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other." Then he foolishly promised to "rout out terror wherever it may exist." [Woodward, p.73] More ominously, he would "make no distinction between those who planned these acts and those who harbor them." [p. 30] Finally, he also promised to "rid the world of evil." [p. 67]
Such words befit an overeager, ignorant, petulant child, not a mature statesman. Yet, can any less be said of all the Americans, who found such nonsense persuasive? No wonder citizens throughout the rest of the world consider the United States to be the greatest menace to world peace.
Kennan considered President George W. Bush to be a "profoundly shallow" man. And in September 2002, at the age of 98, Kennan not only asserted that alarmed and exercized attempts to link Iraq to al Qaeda was "pathetically unsupported and unreliable," he also castigated Democrats for "timidity out of concern for the [November 2002] elections."
Unfortunately, Kennan already was bedridden when the evil, fear-mongering Darth Cheney - who, I remind you, was the negligent sitting Vice-President when al Qaeda's terrorists successfully attacked the U.S. on 9/11 - asserted: "A November win by Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry would put the United States at risk of another "devastating" terrorist attack." [CNN.com, Sept. 7, 2004]
A few months after Kennan's death, but long after it became clear that the Bush administration's incompetence had lost Osama bin Laden, and was losing its war in Iraq (perhaps, Afghanistan, as well), Karl Rove still was asserting: "Conservatives saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and prepared for war, liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding."
Beyond this McCarthyite smear, Rove committed others: "Conservatives see the United States as a great nation engaged in a noble cause; liberals see the United States and they see…Nazi concentration camps, Soviet gulags, and the killing fields of Cambodia." [Joe Conason, It Can Happen Here, pp. 24-25] Thus, as he did from 9/11 forward, Rove was betting that a majority of the electorate could be frightened to vote Republican by Republican hate- and fear-mongering.
Worse still, with the aid of America's warmongering neoconservatives (those brave folks who, somehow, never get around to serving in the military, themselves) such as Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, Bush and Cheney were able "to divert America's wrath away from those who perpetrated that attack and turn it against those [in Iraq] who did not." [Scott McConnell, "The Weekly Standard's War," The American Conservative, September 21, 2005]
As Scott McConnell has written, in 1997 Kristol and Robert Kagan wrote an article, "Saddam Must Go," in which they asserted: "We know it seems unthinkable to propose another ground attack to take Baghdad. But it's time to start thinking the unthinkable." After 9/11, Kristol's Weekly Standard propagandists incessantly beat the war drums for invading Iraq. And they did so by repeating their BIG LIE - Saddam was linked to al Qaeda.
For, as Scott McConnell notes, in the very first issue published after 9/11, the Weekly Standard "laid down a line from which the magazine would not waver over the next 18 months." Their line was "to link Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden in virtually every paragraph, to join them at the hip in the minds of readers, and then lay out a strategy that actually gave attacking Saddam priority over eliminating al Qaeda." [McConnell, The American Conservative]
Moreover, the most zealous neocon, Douglas Feith, used his position within the Department of Defense to fabricate bogus intelligence to present to fellow neocon, Paul Wolfowitz, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Darth Cheney, who would then present the BIG LIE to the public. Supplementing the BIG LIE was the superficial nonsense spouted by America's neocons about the ease with which democracy and freedom could be exported to the Middle East - even at the point of a gun.
How serious is the BIG LIE? Consider Robert Parry's observation: "Under principles of international law applied from Nuremberg to Rwanda, propagandists who contribute to war crimes or encourage crimes against humanity can be put in the dock alongside the actual killers." [Consortium News, Posted August 21, 2006]
But what about the water-carriers for Bush, Cheney, Rove and Kristol, such as Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter? They certainly meet the criteria Kennan observed in 1953, when he said: "[T]hey claim the right to define a certain area of our national life and cultural output as beyond the bounds of righteous approval… One has the impression that if uncountered, these people would eventually narrow the area of political and cultural respectability to a point where it included only themselves, the excited accusers, and excluded everything and everybody not embraced in the profession of denunciation."
Like the McCarthyite and virulent racist, J. Edgar Hoover, who was "so malicious that he would stop at nothing to destroy" Martin Luther King Jr., "a man who believed in justice," [NY Times Jan. 18, 1998] today's McCarthyite and virulent racist, Rush Limbaugh, is leaving few stones unturned in his attempt to destroy Senator Barack Obama. Limbaugh, you'll recall, decades ago told an African-American caller to "take that bone out of your nose." Judging by his recent assaults on Senator Obama, it doesn't sound like Limbaugh has ever learned from the errors of his ways.
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